White Sox trim Major League camp to 33 players
Danks among three sent to Triple-A; Axelrod sent to Minors camp and Boggs waived
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox made five roster moves on Sunday morning to reduce their total in camp to 33 players.
In the process, they gave sharper focus to the few remaining position battles for the 25-man active roster.
Outfielder Jordan Danks, third baseman Matt Davidson and right-handed pitcher Jake Petricka were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Right-handed pitcher Dylan Axelrod was reassigned to Minor League camp and, in a somewhat surprising move, the team requested waivers on right-handed pitcher Mitchell Boggs for the purpose of granting his unconditional release.
Boggs had a 12.79 ERA over seven games, but was also just two years removed from standing as one of the National League's top setup men. General manager Rick Hahn said that Boggs showed some improvement after delivery changes suggested by pitching coach Don Cooper. But he ran out of time and got beat out by other pitchers.
"This gives [Boggs] the opportunity to, perhaps, catch on with someone else before Opening Day," said Hahn. "As I told him directly, if he does not, we would be very happy to have him in Charlotte and continue on some of the progress we felt we made."
Maikel Cleto will be part of the Opening Day roster. The hard-throwing right-hander, whom the White Sox claimed off of waivers from the Royals, is out of options but also has pitched well enough to earn that bullpen spot. Add in consistency to throw strikes to the 100-mph stuff he possesses, and Cleto could be a future closing candidate.
Zach Putnam, David Purcey and Daniel Webb are competing for one remaining relief spot, assuming Matt Lindstrom has no further problems with his left oblique. Purcey gives the White Sox a third left-hander, while Webb is one of the organization's top pitching prospects and could become a late-inning fixture. Putnam would be more of a long-relief possibility.
Putnam, 26, had surgery in August to remove bone spurs from his right elbow, so his expectations weren't sky-high for his first White Sox Spring Training. But he has added in a little cutter/slider to go with his splitter and has liked the results.
"I've thrown the ball pretty well. But a lot of other guys in here have, as well," Putnam said. "They are going to make a decision based on merit -- and all you can do as a player is hope that you are the guy."
There's no question that Davidson, 23, remains the White Sox third baseman of the future. He did little to change that opinion during the last month, showing improvement defensively ever since a hitter's camp in mid-January, and showing improvement with a change offensively made in his timing mechanism.
But with Conor Gillaspie entrenched at third base and the White Sox in need of a utility infielder with both Jeff Keppinger and Gordon Beckham possibly moving to the disabled list for the start of the 2014 campaign, there wasn't a spot for him. The White Sox are viewing Davidson as they viewed Avisail Garcia after acquiring him last July: Davidson will be at the Major League level once he has everyday playing time.
"We view [Davidson] as a long-term solution, someone who's going to be part of a successful White Sox club for many years -- and we really aren't hung up about whether that starts March 31 or May 1 or Aug. 1," said Hahn. "It's going to begin when he's in a position to have success at the big league level, not just survive."
"I came in and I feel like I put myself in a good spot, as far as having a good collective 2014 -- whether how long I'm in Triple-A or if I was in the big leagues," said Davidson, who hit .308 with a .906 OPS and finished Spring Training with 10 hits in his last 21 at-bats. "It was a goal from the start. Obviously, I wanted to start in the big leagues. But you can't always have what you want."
Danks had to be the toughest move for the White Sox, after he hit .333 with five homers, 10 RBIs and an impressive 1.116 OPS over 45 plate appearances. Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza remain entrenched in left field. With the last bench spot going to a utility infielder, there was no room for the left-handed hitter.
Any future move made in the outfield almost certainly would bring Danks back into the Major League mix. Hahn also told the young outfielder that they wouldn't block opportunities elsewhere for him.
"Jordan has really done everything we have asked of him over the last couple of years, in terms of coming up and being prepared when the opportunity does arise in Chicago," Hahn said.
"They've just got too many outfielders," Danks said. "One thing they did say was not to be discouraged about it -- that I'm definitely one of the guys that could be helping them on this team. So [I'll] go down there and continue to hit and, like they said, just be ready."
With Sunday's moves, the White Sox have 14 pitchers, three catchers, 11 infielders and five outfielders in camp. The White Sox 40-man roster is at 39, meaning there's room to add a non-roster invitee, such as Putnam, Alex Liddi, Hector Gimenez or Purcey.